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Governor argues gun bills moving through the legislature will promote public safety

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
New Mexico in Focus
New Mexico PBS
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Bills to regulate access to firearms are moving somewhat quickly through this short 30-day legislative session. They’re part of an overall public safety agenda by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The bills include a 14-day waiting period to buy a gun, which was reduced in the House to seven days, and bans on firearms at polling places. The governor spoke with Gwyneth Doland on New Mexico in Focus, who asked her if incremental restrictions like these have real potential to improve safety for New Mexicans.

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: I believe they do, or I wouldn't do it. And I certainly wouldn't do it in a 30-day session. And you know, there's evidence that suggests, if we can curb people who should never have guns from having guns, and we don't want weapons of mass destruction anywhere in our communities. Anything I can do to prevent a mass shooting in any context is worth doing. And I am actually a little surprised that those are moving. And I would say that Albuquerque is a good example of people have had enough that can see it. We've done thousands of arrests since the public health order. And I think people are saying, you know, ‘I'm feeling a little bit better and safer.’ And the number of guns we've taken off the streets, that visual is visceral, right? You feel it. And I think that has a lot to do with this momentum.

NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS: How much of the problem you are trying to fight is the perception of crime?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: I think that perception, even if the facts don't always bear out that crime is rising -- so for example, you probably are aware that we can show that a lot of crime is actually headed in the right direction. It's diminishing in Albuquerque. Violent crime has been stagnant, it's still high, and it's not really moving. But I think we're going to see a dip and it's exactly what we should expect. But if we don't have the right prevention, support to families, do something about poverty, better education, the answer to crime is always jobs -- while 110,000 jobs just in the last three years -- it's not a perception. There is a climate around the world of animosity, and anxiety. There are a lot of guns that are available far too easy. I think that we are enamored, like there's a negative gun culture, that combination has proven to be quite disturbing and dangerous in America. If we can get on top of it and squeeze it from both ends, I think people won't have a debate about perception and what stat means this or another. But when I feel safe going out in the ditches in Albuquerque, I miss them, going for a jog at 3:30 or a little bit late in summer, six o'clock, by myself, I'm going to feel like I'm not quite done, because that's the community I grew up in, and everyone deserves a chance to grow up in a neighborhood where they feel that safe.

NMIF: Democrats have blocked you on some of your proposals like pretrial detention. Now, judges do already have the power to do this if prosecutors can prove that it's necessary. But some Democrats up here just insist that it is unconstitutional. Why keep pushing for it?

LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, because I've seen the difference it makes even in today. Albuquerque is the only place we're doing it with young people who were involved in gun violence. You know, we're now detaining them. And 100 people, we can show you, have recommitted a crime and many of them violent crime. We do have an obligation and a constitutional requirement to protect people from being detained unconstitutionally, you are innocent until proven guilty. And no one wants that standard to be eroded in any context. And if we did, the Feds would hold us accountable.

But you also have to be clear when you have repeat offenders, and you have violent offenders -- and the police stop arresting and then people stopped calling 911 -- now we have a real problem in our communities. I think maybe we've been approaching the dialogue about this not as effectively as we could have. And that is this: we don't want anyone innocent, who isn't a real threat being held unconstitutionally or even if that wasn't the standard. Why would we want that. But if we can talk about it in a way that says we need safeguards for the community, can we describe those safeguards a bit differently so that it cues the judges to ask more serious questions about the patterns of crime” And we train DAs and PDs to engage in that dialogue, I think we could get some better results. We're seeing better results just by talking about it with judges. So I think that's an indication we've potentially made some mistakes. And I want to get it to a place where it becomes routine. Having it be routine means you get it in statute. And I think it doesn't have to just be like the federal standard, which is what I introduced, but stay tuned because I think we might have another path forward.

You can see the full interview from New Mexico in Focus here.

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